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This article’s purpose is to counter the anti-creationist claims of a recent paper by Senter and Cole.1 A number of creationists have spotted this paper and called attention to it.2 I’m sure these respected creationists, such as Dr. Wood and Dr. Garner, would have a great deal more to say had they taken a closer look at the paper and the specific arguments presented therein. However, I understand that their busy schedules do not permit them to look at everything in great detail.

Using the common point by point style, this article will examine Senter’s and Cole’s claims, methods, and worldview arguments. At first glance, the paper from Senter and Cole may seem to be a worthy endeavor and perhaps even convincing until a few arguments are analyzed. Keep in mind the great difference between proof and persuasion. One can be persuaded by bad arguments, as Dr. Jason Lisle explains in The Ultimate Proof of Creation, but that does not make the argument sound.

For an example of poor reasoning from an old-earth worldview, one may claim that he would expect to find extensive fossiliferous rock layers. Upon examination, extensive fossiliferous rock layers are found all around the world. Therefore, the old-earth proponent concludes that the earth is indeed old. This reasoning may convince or persuade someone; however, it is the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

Let’s begin examining the claims and reasoning in Senter’s and Cole’s paper.

The findings of mainstream geology have firmly established that non-avian dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago when the Mesozoic Era gave way to the Cenozoic Era, and that Homo sapiens appeared less than one million years ago.

Senter and Cole begin with a declaration of their absolute adherence to the religion of humanism with its underlying concepts of naturalism, geological evolution, and biological evolution. In other words, they have pigeonholed themselves as biased researchers who come to the evidence, not in a neutral fashion (which no one can do), but with an agenda to push their opinions as fact.

Have they ever observed anything over the course of millions of years? No. Have they ever repeated a single experiment over millions of years? No. So it is not a scientific view, but a purely religious one.

Young-earth creationists, on the other hand, insist that humans, dinosaurs, and all other terrestrial animals were created on the same day about 6000 years ago (e.g., papers in Ham 2006, 2008).

Actually the Bible declares that land animals and humans were created the same day. According to information provided in the biblical genealogies, the earth was created several thousand years ago, and is not billions of years old.3 This idea did not originate with YEC (young-earth creationists), but the YEC are consistent with the Bible on this issue and trust the eyewitness revelation of the Creator God. In contrast, the fallible, sinful, imperfect ideas and opinions of people regarding the past are not as accurate. So note again that the debate is a religious one: shall we interpret evidence in light of what God says or what man says (Christianity versus humanism)?

They have therefore long sought evidence

False. All the evidence is God’s, according to Psalm 24:1. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” It is not a matter of trying to find evidence. The evidence is everywhere. The issue is the interpretation of the evidence. When starting with God’s Word, the evidence makes sense.

for the coexistence of humans with dinosaurs

The Bible already declared man and land animals were living at the same time (Genesis 1:24–31). Since God declared it, and He is the ultimate authority on the subject, then it is true. Finding evidence that is properly interpreted should merely be a confirmation of this truth.

and other pre-Pleistocene organisms so as to cast doubt upon the mainstream geological timescale of millions of years.

The Pleistocene refers, not to a timescale, but to rock layers that were post-Flood. The indication of “pre-Pleistocene” assumes humanistic interpretations are absolute. By starting with the Bible, we can find out about the global Flood, which accounts for the bulk of the fossiliferous rock layers laid down about 4,350 years ago (since then, local catastrophes like volcanoes and smaller floods have occurred that accumulate some layers). Rock layers above that would be less in age (like the Pleistocene).

Those from Adam to Shem were living before rock layers that contain dinosaurs were even laid down!4 This occurred during Noah and Shem’s lifetime. Furthermore, it is the Bible’s timescale that casts doubts and in fact refutes the humanist’s geological evolution.

Several such pieces of “evidence” appeared in the twentieth century, only to be discredited upon scrutiny. Alleged human footprints in Mesozoic strata have been exposed as forgeries in some cases and identified as dinosaur tracks in others (Neufeld 1975; Kuban 1989). An alleged sandal print on a Cambrian trilobite has been identified as a weathering pattern (Stokes 1986). An alleged fossilized, Cretaceous human finger has been identified as the infilling of a burrow (Isaak 2007). Alleged Mesozoic sediment encrusting a hammer has been identified as a recent concretion (Isaak 2007). A human skeleton that allegedly came from Jurassic sediment has been identified as an intrusive burial (Strahler 1999). An alleged Miocene deposit on Guadeloupe in which a human skeleton was found has been shown to be a Quaternary deposit (Strahler 1999).

Answers in Genesis and, as I understand it, a number of other creation ministries have rejected the above findings as proper evidence for this subject. But note that recent concretion covering the hammer is good evidence for rapid formation of rock, which is an excellent argument against the allegation of slow gradual formation of rock over millions of years.

But one should not neglect the secular side and blatant forgeries such as Archaeorapter, Piltdown Man, Nebraska Man, and so on. The overarching point here is that making an argument that there have been improperly used evidences is not a guarantee of the nature of this particular petroglyph.

The Ica Stones, upon which are images of dinosaurs that were allegedly made by ancient inhabitants of present-day Peru, have been exposed as forgeries (Isaak 2007).

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In recent times, some have created forgeries when poor Peruvians realized that tourists would gladly pay a pretty penny for stones with dinosaurs on them. Usually, these could easily be spotted as forgeries (recent paint, paintings of incorrect dinosaur images that were common in the latter part of the twentieth century). The same sort of thing apparently inspired the famous fraud of dinosaurs with feathers (Archaeorapter).

Christians have a basis to refrain from engaging in forgeries but not those who espouse a secular worldview. Notice who did the frauds—non-Christians, be it from China, Mexico, Peru, or elsewhere, and the primary reason was for money, not for worldview debate.

Note how Christians argue against incorrect or fraudulent findings. The exposure of many of the above examples as frauds was aided by researchers from Loma Linda University, the Institute for Creation Research, and Answers in Genesis.

The Acámbaro figures, which include dinosaur statuettes allegedly made by ancient inhabitants of present-day Mexico, have been exposed as forgeries (Di Peso 1953).

Again, this was not promoted by Answers in Genesis either. But there is plenty of evidence from radiometric dating to dinosaurs that has been repeatedly ignored by humanists pushing for evolution and millions of years. See the Answers in Genesis website Get Answers section. Furthermore, why have all this listed here when the authors agreed in the conclusion that this petroglyph was not a fraud? Is this section for the purpose of making creationists “guilty by association”?

Another putative piece of evidence for the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans, the alleged depiction of a sauropod dinosaur at the Kachina Bridge archaeological site (Figure 1), has proved more baffling.

Even the secular side agrees that Native Americans made the petroglyph well before the recent debate over the age of the earth, and in particular the dinosaur/dragon issue. So of course, this is a more difficult issue. One can’t simply claim forgery.

The image, hereafter called Dinosaur 1, is of importance because until now it has escaped explanation from mainstream science.

A couple extremely important points need to be made here. First, “science” doesn’t explain things. This is the fallacy of reification. People explain things, not science. Science, as we practice it today, is a methodology developed by a young-earth creationist (Francis Bacon).

So what Senter and Cole really mean is the secular humanists do not have an explanation yet. But even if they did, does that disprove the other view? Not at all. For example, imagine someone finds a solitary dinosaur fossil, and one group says the dinosaurs had three babies and four grandbabies. If another group comes along and disagrees with the first by stating, “No, no, this dinosaur had one baby and six grandbabies,” does that refute the first? Of course not. They have not refuted the first view because their position is merely an educated guess based on scant evidence.

Reference to it persists in young-earth creationist literature (Swift 1997, 2006; Ham 2000; Butt and Lyons 2005, 2008) and websites (Sharp 2001; Anonymous 2009; Creation Truth Ministries 2009; Swift 2009; The Interactive Bible 2009) as a popular rallying point, heretofore without rejoinder. A plaque illustrating the image is even exhibited in the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.

True.

Dinosaur 1 has received considerable attention from young-earth creationists but close inspection and thorough description of it has not occurred before now. This lack of research is understandable, because it is approximately 2 m above the head of the average observer on a nearly vertical surface, surrounded by rough and extremely steep terrain that discourages the carrying of a ladder, about an hour by foot from the nearest road. One author (Sharp 2001) identifies three more petroglyph images, hereafter called Dinosaurs 2 – 4, at the Kachina Bridge site as dinosaurs. Here we report the results of an investigation into the nature of these four items.

These others are more difficult to discern and may well be other creatures. But this discussion will regard Dinosaur 1 in the response, which is the main one used and the easiest to discern.

The four alleged dinosaur depictions are part of a plethora of images made by prehistoric cultures at the Kachina Bridge site.

They are not prehistoric. Prehistoric is actually an illogical term that demonstrates an anti-biblical worldview. Historical accounts begin with the beginning of time in Genesis 1, which is a historical account. Genesis 5:1 mentions “the book of the genealogy of Adam” which was written long before this petroglyph. This etching was both after the Flood and the scattering at Babel, so it was less than about 4,200 years ago and probably much more recent than this. But it was definitely within historic times, as time would not exist prior to Genesis 1:1.

Kachina Bridge is an immense sandstone formation resembling an archway over 60 m high and wide, formed by the undercutting of a rock wall by flowing water. The images comprise rock paintings (composed of pigments) and petroglyphs formed by pecking, abrading, incising, and scratching.

Agreed—and all of which can be done by humans with tools.

Earlier examples are associated with Archaic era hunter-gatherers that occupied the study area generally prior to 1000 B.C.

The time period was ancient, yes, but not an “Archaic era,” as these people were fully developed descendants of Noah. The date of 1000 BC is possible, as that is in the biblical range, but it could also have been much more recent.

Other images are for the most part attributed to Ancestral Pueblo farming societies (Basketmaker II–Pueblo III) dating from approximately A.D. 200 to 1300.

Though dating methods are proven to be wrought with problems,5 these dates seem reasonable within a biblical timeframe.

Some petroglyphs may have been made by more recent protohistoric or historic Paiute, Ute, or Navajo groups (Grant 1978; Schaafsma 1980; Cordell 1984; McVickar 2001; Cole 2009; Spangler et al. 2009).

Either way, the glyphs were made post-Flood and post-dispersion from Babel. They may have been made within a few centuries of the dispersion or immediately before modern times.

METHODS

The hypothesis that a given petroglyph depicts a dinosaur makes four predictions:

Actually the authors are making four predictions, but they are humanists looking at this from a humanistic perspective, and so they already believe it does not represent a dinosaur they have made this clear with their stated comments adhering to humanistic beliefs). So any conclusions they draw will comport to their previously stated position. Honest, unbiased observers they are not. In fact, they have made their conclusion prior to any of this research. To be quite frank, the research done so far has had gross misrepresentations of biblical Christianity and the Bible, so this is already a red flag because their research has proven to be of low quality.

(1) the image is a single image, not a composite of separate images,

This is irrelevant. An artist can easily use multiple images to composite a whole image. This is often done by artists today. But if such a prerequisite was applied to secular interpretations, Lucy, which is a composite, must be rejected in the alleged human evolution debate.

(2) it depicts an animal,

This is a reasonable deduction. In fact, this is more key. One needs to show what other animal it could be, but even then, that would not be absolute but merely a tentative option.

(3) its features cannot be reconciled with an interpretation that it depicts a member of the non-dinosaurian local fauna that was contemporaneous with its maker(s),

This presupposes that dinosaurian local fauna was absent. In a biblical worldview, dinosaurs survived the Flood and have since died out (from our best estimates).

(4) its features depict a specific, identifiable dinosaur, and

Not necessarily. We expect that the ancient depiction is no longer in the original condition and has deteriorated. So having a specific species is not a requirement, nor even close.

(5) it is entirely human-made.

This is a fifth prediction, so why do the authors say there are four predictions, as noted above? Of course, there will be weathering acting on it, but the sheer fact that other images are also etched and have residual paint should be obvious. Should we expect the common humanistic view of aliens to dominate the rest of this?

To test these predictions the four alleged dinosaur depictions were examined with the naked eye and with the aid of binoculars and telephoto lenses. Observations were made while the images were illuminated by direct and indirect sunlight and when they were in shadow. Accurate documentation and analysis of petroglyphs requires this level of observation and recording insofar as visibility varies considerably under changing light conditions, and it may be difficult if not impossible to perceive differences between natural and man-made manipulations of sandstone surfaces.

So all the researchers did was . . . look at it? They performed no paint test, etching experiments, weathering experiments, animal shape research, or researching related rock art in the region? This is no more scientific than what had been previously done. This entire procedure is an insufficient evidence fallacy to refute. Merely looking at something, like others have already done, and ignoring other scientific procedures that could have helped or refuted the authors’ position reveal that precious little was done to actually derive plausible conclusions to refute the depiction being a dinosaur image.

RESULTS

Dinosaur 1 does not satisfy the predictions that it is a single image,

As pointed out, this was irrelevant.

that it depicts an animal,

But other researchers, doing the same scientific procedures that Senter and Cole did (observing it) come to the opposite conclusion. Why trust biased persons who believed it was not a dinosaur to begin with and then upon looking at it conclude it is not a dinosaur? This is a fallacy of affirming the consequent.

or that it is entirely human-made.

Naturally, weathering will have its effect, but the original is what is in question.

It is a composite of two separate items that were formed by pecking (a technique in which small bits of rock are chipped from the surface by a hand-held instrument), plus mineral or mud stains. The “head,” “neck,” and “torso” are a single item: a thick, sinuous shape formed by pecking. The “tail” is a second, Ushaped item formed by pecking. That the two items are indeed two separate items is indicated by a gap between them and also by differences in pecking patterns and densities between the two (Figure 1).

As mentioned, being a composite does not eliminate it from being intentionally done in such a way by the artist.

The “legs” are not part of the image and are not pecked or otherwise human-made but are stains of mud or some light-colored mineral on the irregular surface.

But why assume it is not part of the image? Using stains of mud or other sources of coloring was common for artists. Furthermore, the under surface has been through years of weathering, which we would expect to affect the surface. Such a find is not to be misconstrued as having no original human input.

What appears to be an eye is a natural chip or depression.

That is an easy thing to do from an artistic perspective.

What appears to be a smiling mouth is the edge of the pecking that forms the “chin.” It follows a raised surface that continues to the right, beyond the “head.”

This is an excellent observation, but it would seem strange that the artist would intentionally put a smile on it, too. So it is good that this is dispelled. Thanks.

The meaning of the two pecked items is enigmatic, but it is clear that neither depicts an animal.

Again, this is based on the assumption that a person wasted his time etching two things that are, in the authors’ opinion, not things at all, but happen to look very much like something! This is a common tactic of seeing what the authors want to see, but it in no way presents a solid argument against this being a final single image.

The “head” of Dinosaur 1 is overlapped by a subsequent pecking of a spiral-like shape, a common motif in petroglyphs and rock paintings and on pottery of Ancestral Pueblos after Pueblo I times (~A.D. 700 to 1300).

Granted, the dates are highly questionable, but it shows that this artist was indeed using techniques common to him and well before the new idea that man and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.

The “torso” is superimposed over a previously pecked triangle the apex of which protrudes above the “dinosaur’s “back.” The significance of the triangle is enigmatic.

In all this, there is no coherent argument that this was not designed to look like an animal or that it was not done by a person. Yet it shows the intricate ability of Native American artists as being highly intelligent in using a number of techniques—etching, pecking, painting, and so on—when doing rock art.

I get tired of the humanistic diatribes against peoples like the Native Americans whom they have viewed as less “evolved” and thus not as intelligent. These natives were truly brilliant, and poor arguments that lack good scientific research, like this one attacking their artwork, surely do not help evolutionary worldview considerations.

There is no need to spend time on the questionable images, which are still clearly done by Native Americans. So the response will pick up on the discussion.

DISCUSSION

Pareidolia is the psychological phenomenon of perceiving significance in vague or random stimuli, e.g., seeing animals in clouds or the face of a religious figure in a food item. The results of this investigation indicate that the dinosaurs of Kachina Bridge are examples of this phenomenon and exist only as pareidolic illusions.

This would be predicated on the argument that the illustrations and petroglyphs were drawings of nothing and had no meaning to the artist; and therefore, those looking at it are deriving a false meaning of something when it is supposed to be nothing! This is an absurd conclusion to say an artist took time to draw “nothing” that had no meaning. These etchings did signify something, and Senter’s and Cole’s paper has not shown Dinosaur 1 to be something other than a dinosaur. The argument that this petroglyph represents “nothing” does not show in the slightest the very point in question.

They can therefore be added to the list of discredited evidence for the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans.

And likewise, the argument still stands that the most reasonable explanation of the petroglyph is that it is indeed a dinosaur that the artist rendered.

It should be noted that, unlike some previous such “evidence” (Di Peso 1953; Neufeld 1975; Isaak 2007), in this case there was no deliberate hoax.

Agreed.

In light of the poor quality of the research and arguments, Senter and Cole have brought nothing of substance to refute the idea that this Native American petroglyph, dubbed here Dinosaur 1 at Kachina Bridge, is best explained as a dinosaur.

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Footnotes

  1. Phil Senter and S. J. Cole, “‘Dinosaur’ petroglyphs at Kachina Bridge site, Natural Bridges National Monument, southeastern Utah: not dinosaurs after all,” Palaeontologia Electronica 14:1 (2011), pp. 1–5. Back
  2. P. Garner, Phil Senter Strikes Again, The New Creationism Website, March 5, 2011: http://thenewcreationism.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/phil-senter-strikes-again/ and T. Wood, And Yet Another Helpful Paper from Phil Senter, March 9, 2011, http://toddcwood.blogspot.com/. Back
  3. For one detailed analysis see J. Ussher, The Annals of the World, translated by Larry and Marion Pierce (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003). See also B. Hodge, “How Old Is the Earth?” Answers in Genesis website, May 30, 2007, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2007/05/30/how-old-is-earth. Back
  4. B. Hodge, “Ancient Patriarchs in Genesis,” Answers in Genesis website, January 20, 2009, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2009/01/20/ancient-patriarchs-in-genesis. Back
  5. L. Vardiman, A.A. Snelling, and E.F. Chaffin (Eds.), Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, Institute for Creation Research, Santee, California, and Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, Arizona, 2005. Back